When it comes to cleaning your computer of wasteful, performance-sapping programs and files, any time of year is a good time for a little spring cleaning.
As founder and president of Geeks on Site, a diversified onsite and remote tech support and computer repair service, George Otte, Miami computer expert, handles technological “spring cleaning” in every month of the year. Since getting into the computer repair business back in the early 2000s, Otte has learned that, given enough time, virtually everything that can go wrong with computer hardware and software eventually does.
Fortunately, Otte also knows how to get a computer back in fine form — and reduce the likelihood that similar problems will occur in the future. If you’re looking to give your computer or digital accessories a much-needed boost, follow George Otte’s top tech repair tips.
- Check Your Antivirus Subscription
An up-to-date antivirus subscription, which should include protection against other forms of malware as well, is your first line of defense against malicious threats that could sap your computing speeds and cause a host of other undesirable side effects.
George Otte recommends setting up your antivirus subscription to renew automatically on a monthly or annual basis. If you don’t already have a subscription, make sure you select one that offers protection against a wide variety of threats and automatically updates to account for new threats as they arise.
- Run Defragmentation
Defragmentation is a technical process that you can initiate from within your computer’s operating system. In layman’s terms, the goal is to consolidate the file structures and pathways on your computer’s hard disk to reduce the overall amount of work your computer needs to perform when executing routine tasks. Since full defragmentation can take hours and shouldn’t be interrupted, Otte recommends running your “defrag” overnight.
- Trim Unnecessary Startup Items
One of the best things about getting a new computer is the stunning speed with which it powers up from “off” or “sleep” mode for the first few weeks or months.
Unfortunately, that new computer speed doesn’t always last. According to Otte, aging computers fall victim to “slow startup syndrome” when their users allow programs to default-open during startup, wake, and operating system reboot cycles. To boost speed, only set programs to default-open at startup when absolutely necessary.
- Throw Out the Trash
When was the last time you emptied your operating system’s trash bin — or even deleted a file? Do yourself a favor and empty your trash / recycle bin during your next “spring cleaning.” It’s not like you’ll actually miss any of those files!
- Invest in Data and System Backup
As computer age, they become more vulnerable to data loss and system failure. If you don’t take steps to backup your important files and system functions, a crash could make it difficult or impossible to recover lost files — with potentially catastrophic personal and professional consequences. According to George Otte, physical (i.e. an external hard drive) and cloud (through a subscription service like Dropbox) backup are critical to protecting the integrity of your data.
- Add Working Memory
If quick fixes don’t seem to improve your computer’s run speed or performance, a lack of RAM could be the culprit. Talk to a computer repair expert to determine how much extra RAM your computer needs, then have a professional add it to your hard drive. You’ll be good to go in no time!
- Use Ad-Blocking and Spyware-Detection Programs
Ad-blocking and spyware-detection programs complement antivirus software to provide multi-layered protection and reduce the risk that your computer will fall victim to preventable performance drags. They can keep your personal information safe, too. George Otte recommends maintaining current ad-blocking and spyware-detection subscriptions with auto-update capabilities, if possible.
- Run Pending Updates
Many of George Otte’s clients have dozens or even hundreds of pending system updates that they’ve put off running. But automatically updating files is actually a great way to reduce system redundancy and free up much-needed disk space. Run updates overnight, when they’re least likely to interfere with your normal computing activities — and make sure to completely restart afterward.
- Manually Erase Files and Programs You Haven’t Used in a While
Emptying your trash bin isn’t the only way to relieve your computer of unnecessary or redundant files. During your spring-cleaning session, go through your program folders and clean out any files — or whole programs — that you no longer use. At the same time, group files that you still do use into logical folders for easy access — and easier deletion, when the time comes.
- Clear Your Cookies and Browsing History
According to Otte, making sure your Internet browsing cache is clear isn’t really about covering your online tracks. Clearing your cookies, browsing history and other stored browsing data is a great way to ensure that your browser isn’t hampered by unnecessary data.
Although the size of each piece of browsing information is inconsequential, heavy browsing over months or years can produce formidable caches that act as a drag on your browsing speeds. In fact, in the absence of an issue with your local network, a burdensome history is the single likeliest culprit for your subpar browsing speeds. If you don’t believe it, just watch how long it takes for your computer to erase all the files you’ve built up over the years.
Make a Day of It
George Otte is the first to admit that there aren’t always enough hours in the day to accomplish everything we’d like. That’s why he recommends setting aside a day every few months — the exact frequency depends on how much you use your devices and what they’re used for — for your very own high-tech “spring cleaning.” Put on some music, grab a cup of tea, and use this day to return your desktop, laptop and mobile devices to the peak of their potential.
When your friends and family members complain about their computers’ frustrating performance issues or grouse that they have to buy a new computer every 18 months, you’ll thank yourself for setting your devices up for success.
Image Attribution: ITU Pictures – Creative Commons license